Archive for Writing

Star Author: Barbara Else – How is The Volume of Possible Endings different from the first two Tales?

This third Tale of Fontania is another stand-alone novel. Some of the characters from the first two come back into it. But the main character, Dorrity, is new. So is the other important character, Metalboy. I like to have new main characters each time because that means there is an interesting (I hope) new story to be told even though it is set in the same fantasy world.

This time, there is another difference too. In The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy the characters left home and went on an adventure. With this third one, I wanted to explore the place the novel started. It’s set mostly in Owl Town on the edges of the Beastly Dark, a great forest in the south-west of Fontania. It seems a fairly ordinary place at first, where life always goes on in the same sort of way. But there is only one child in the whole town. That’s odd. And there is a lot more going on than the child, Dorrity, realises. I wanted to find out what lived in the Beastly Dark.

I also wanted to figure out what King Jasper might have invented next. In The Queen and the Nobody Boy, he has only recently invented message birds. But that is five years before the story of Dorrity and Metalboy. What would Jasper have invented by now?

Though I’d had great fun writing the travel adventure stories of the first two novels, this time it was a change to ‘stay put’ and make the story a different sort of adventure that happens exploring pretty much one place.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How cool are maps?

I feel very lucky to have an artist as clever as Sam Broad to do the cover and maps for the Tales of Fontania.

What are the best things about Sam? He has an amazing sense of fun and drama. I don’t think he could do a boring picture no matter how hard to tried. His illustrations almost zoom off the page with energy. The other thing I really like is how he adds in his own little details.

The Volume of Possible Endings is in five parts and each one is headed by an illustration. The one on page 158 is a fabulous raven soldier. See how his foot rests on the toadstool. See the feather dropping off his hunky arm. And take a look at the can of army rations on p 98. It’s pretty disgusting. I love it.

The inside covers of The Volume of Possible Endings have a map of Owl Town where most of the action takes place. While I’m drafting a novel, I have to do maps myself to make sure I’m sending the characters in the right directions. I’m very grateful that Sam can look at my scrappy scribbles and turn them into versions that are so much fun and – well, I’ve already said clever. But when it’s about Sam Broad, it is worth saying clever at least twice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How things happen to surprise you when you’re writing

At the back of The Volume of Possible Endings you’ll find the Anarchists’ Marching Song – words and music.  Anarchists are people who don’t believe in having rules, so the very idea of them marching in step is kind’a ridiculous. But these particular anarchists are rather ridiculous. They’re the guys on the motorbikes on the cover.

I didn’t set out to give them a song, but when I was rewriting the novel I thought – hmm, people camping out in the wild often sing around their camp fire in the evenings. So I could give the anarchists a guitar or a piano accordion just for some extra detail. I also find it very funny when people yawn so loudly that it sounds like shouting and gives you a fright. So I put those ideas together. Now, in the finished novel, the anarchists start yawning and it turns into their marching song.

By the time I’d written the words for the song, a tune had come into my head. I can’t write down music but I sang it into the recording programme on my laptop and emailed it to Jane Arthur, the very clever Assistant Publisher at Gecko Press.  She was able to write the tune down. She even, very nicely, said my singing was all right. But I know she was fibbing.

If you happen to be a musician you’ll be able to play the Anarchists’ Marching Song for yourself. If you want to try singing, it will help if you have a very deep gruff voice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How much research do you do when you’re writing a fantasy story?

Really annoying answer: it depends.

Sometimes you need the exact facts about something in your story. Like, if you want to set a story in the real Paris or an imaginary version of it, you might need to know the name of the river that flows through it (the Loire), what the French call their money (the lire) and those sorts of practical details. It never hurts to check facts or tiny details. For example, I did some research about ocean currents when I was writing The Travelling Restaurant. After all, I figured that sort of thing would be true whether it was the real world or a fantasy.

Other times, doing some research can help your fantasy ideas get bigger and better. When I was writing The Queen and the Nobody Boy I wanted an unusual flying vehicle so I looked on the internet for the history of air travel. I learned that one early inventor thought that a plane would never be able to get off the ground so he imagined it being attached to a tower. People would climb up the tower into the plane, then the engines would start and off they’d go. I used that information as a basis for the wind-train that Hodie and Sibilla use to escape the Um’Binnians (except it gets them into more trouble).  For The Volume of Possible Endings I wanted to have the first submarine built in Fontania. So I looked up the history of submarines and found heaps of fascinating stuff that happened in our own real world.  For instance, centuries ago someone invented a submarine that used oars – underwater!  It wasn’t a great triumph.

The not-so-annoying answer to today’s question is: no matter what you’re writing, it doesn’t hurt to find out what is possible and use the facts however you like to help your own story.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Where do the ideas for stories come from?

Answer: ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. The first idea for The Volume of Possible Endings came from a fairy tale. It isn’t one of the best known ones, but I’d been interested by it since I was about ten or eleven. It’s a story of a girl who has either six, seven or twenty-one brothers depending on which version of the story it is. A wicked witch changes all the brothers into swans and the spell can only be broken if the girl sews shirts for them all. I remember thinking what a lot of work that would have been – especially if it was twenty-one brothers. She didn’t have a sewing machine, either. It all had to be done with a needle and thread. Yikes. What really grabbed my interest was how much she must have loved her brothers.

But of course, it would have been hard work for me as well to manage twenty-one brothers in a story. I decided that three brothers would be plenty for my story, thanks. And – this isn’t a spoiler – the brothers in this novel don’t get turned into swans. But there is magic involved, and magical wickedness.

Anyway, maybe there’s an idea here that you could use for writing one of your own stories. In fairy stories you never get a lot of information about how the characters feel. They just do things, or things just happen to them. So why not start thinking about why the characters in a fairy story come to do whatever it might be. How do they actually feel? Choose a fairy tale you especially like, say, Red Riding Hood. Why would a mother could send her precious child into a forest all by herself? Does Red Riding Hood really want to go into the forest? Or, think about how the wolf feels. For instance, how long is it since he had a good dinner? Or is he just a greedy-guts? Or a bully and a show-off? Could you tell the story from his point of view? That might be fun.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Titles

Titles are important, aren’t they? A book need one that makes a reader intrigued as to what the story will be about. But if you’re writing a story, you don’t have to have the title right away. Sometimes the right title will just pop into your head at some stage while you’re working on the piece.

When I was writing the first Tale of Fontania, the title was pretty obvious as soon as I decided to have a sailing ship as a restaurant a sailing ship. ‘The Sailing Restaurant’ wouldn’t have sounded quite right, but The Travelling Restaurant sounded good to me. It’s at least a bit intriguing, to think of how a restaurant would travel about. (And apologies to American readers who spell travelling with only one l – traveling.)

With the second Tale, at first I thought the title would be ‘The Queen and the Elephant Boy.’ That idea soon got tossed aside when I realised it was going to be tricky having an actual elephant in the story. How could my characters have the wild adventures I wanted if they had to take an elephant along? So I made the elephant one that had died and been buried years ago. ‘The Queen and the …something … Boy’. Hmm. I had to choose a good opposite word to queen. Well the boy in the story had been ignored by everyone, treated like a nobody. So there it was: The Queen and the Nobody Boy. Opposite ideas in a title that can catch a reader’s interest.

I had no idea what I would call the third Tale. The novel opens with a boy as the main character in the first chapter. Then chapter two moves to a girl, Dorrity, who is the only child in Owl Town on the edge of the Beastly Dark. The citizens boast that their town is magic-free. But Dorrity discovers a book on her teacher’s table. When she opens it, the title page is blank at first. Then words appear on it – ‘The Volume of Possible Endings.’ Pages continue to turn on their own and stop at a list of five endings headed ‘Dorrity’s Tale.’ Magic most certainly exists in the town! She’s scared and offended at being lied to by grown-ups.

I was still wondering what to call the novel when I thought – ‘Du-uh! There’s a perfectly good title already there in the story – the title of the book in my book!’ Just as the title of the magical book revealed itself to Dorrity, the title revealed itself to me.

If you happen to be struggling to find the right title, have a look at what you’ve already written for your tale. Maybe it is lurking in a paragraph just waiting to be found.

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Derek Landy talks about The Dying of the Light

Check out these videos of Derek Landy talking about the final Skulduggery Pleasant book, The Dying of the Light.  Derek Landy is coming to Christchurch on Thursday 2 October and you can meet him.  Read our post about Derek’s tour to find out all about it.

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Meet our September Star Author – Mary McCallum

Our super September Star Author is Mary McCallum.  As well as an author Mary has worked as a creative writing tutor, a bookseller, book reviewer, broadcast journalist and television presenter.  Mary’s first children’s book, Dappled Annie and the Tigrish was published earlier this year.

Thanks for joining us Mary!  We look forward to hearing all about your book and your writing.

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Get set for super (duper) perigee moon!

Guess what? This year, there will be not one, not two, but three perigee supermoons. The first happened in April. The next is due early morning Monday 11 August, and the third will happen in November.

Which begs the question, what is a perigee moon, and why on earth did I end up with one in my book about Tilly Angelica, The Night of the Perigee Moon?

A perigee moon is when the moon is at its closest point to us here on earth. A supermoon is when the full moon and perigee happen together. Because it’s so close, and it’s the full moon, it looks amazing. Big, golden and HUGE. You can read more about supermoons here.

And a perigee moon ended up in my book because I happened to go stand on my back doorstep one night and saw one staring back at me. I was so taken with it that it ended up in my story.

That’s how I find my stories come together. I settle on a central idea, and then all sorts of other funny everyday events and happenings end up bossing their way in too.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea that a supermoon would end up being central to the story. That’s one of the things I love about writing – it’s an unfolding surprise, with moons, stars and all sorts of other enchantments wrapped up in it.

Now, go check out that moon!

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How to become an author – start writing!

Hi, Juliet here – star author for August. Writing that sends a shiver down my spine, because:

  • skip back five months ago – I wasn’t an author
  • skip back four years ago – I wasn’t an author, although I had started writing stories
  • skip back five years ago – I wasn’t an author, or a writer … although I *loved* to read (and I secretly, desperately wanted to write).

But I was too scared.

And distracted.

Plus I was convinced I wouldn’t be any good if I tried it anyway.

So it’s probably no surprise that my heroine Tilly and me share a similarity or two. Tilly starts off at the beginning of my first published book Night of the Perigee Moon petrified she’ll inherit some bizarre-o magical talent on her thirteenth birthday – she doesn’t want to turn into a weirdo.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying I’ve always been afraid of being overtaken by some strange, magical talent. Rather, what Tilly and I do have in common is getting distracted by the wrong things.

I’ve known for the longest time that I wanted to be a writer – since I was eight or nine – but I got distracted by the idea that this was impossible.

Writing stories was hard.

Hardly anyone gets published.

What if I didn’t have the imagination for it, anyway?

Still, whenever I sat down and read a book – Margaret Mahy in particular, whose writing I adore – I’d feel the whisper and pull of all those beautiful words. And this insistent tap on my shoulder. This voice saying I want to do that. I want to be that.

Just like Tilly, I had to work out that you’ve got to push past the distractions, and that when you do, you can transform yourself into anything you want to be. Even, it turns out, into a published author.

So, if you’re like me, and you’ve been feeling an itch or a tap on your shoulder to do or try something, but you’ve been ignoring it – try a Tilly on for size, and push past the distractions. Turn around and give that itch or nudge a good shove back.

It’s amazing where it can lead.

Talk more soon 🙂

 

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Meet our August Star Author – Juliet Jacka

Our awesome August Star Author is Juliet Jacka.  Juliet is a New Zealand author, whose debut novel, Night of the Perigee Moon, was published earlier this year.   Biography for author Juliet Jacka.   Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

Thanks for joining us Juliet!  We look forward to hearing all about your books and your writing.

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Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

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Meet our May Star Author – Sue Copsey

Our fantastic May Star Author is New Zealand author, Sue Copsey.  She is an editor and an author who writes for both children and adults.  Sue’s books include Children Just Like Me, Our Children Aotearoa and The Ghosts of Young Nick’s Head.

Thanks for joining us Sue!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and other roles.

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Write Stories. Win Prizes.

The Fabo Story challenge is back!   What’s Fabo Story you ask?  It’s an ongoing competition where you can enter stories for the chance to win prizes!

fabo-for-blog

Fabo Story is Fabulous!

✭ Here’s the website link: http://fabostory.wordpress.com/

✭ There’ll be a new story contest to enter every couple of weeks. (Or longer if it’s over the school holidays). Each time the judge and the story’s opening paragraph changes, you can enter again for another chance to win.

✭ It’s free and fun!

Meet The Judges

Fabo Story started four years ago when a group of ✭C✭R✭A✭Z✭Y✭ children’s authors got together and asked, “How can we encourage more kids to write stories?”  It’s been a wild four years, but we’re still here!

Here’s a little bit about us:

fifi-colston-smlFifi Colston

Fifi Colston is an artist, author and all round creative person who has a motto: ‘If you can’t draw it, write it- and if all else fails, get out the hot glue gun!’

She often does all three.

You can read about her latest novel ‘Glory’ here: www.florencebright.blogspot.com

maureenMaureen Crisp

Maureen loves being a writer. She says “You can spy on people, write down what they say and make up characters in books that look just like them… but they will never guess. And reading all the time is research so I have to do it. (really!)”

Website for kids: www.bonesbymaureencrisp.blogspot.com

elenaElena De Roo

When she was growing up Elena went to seven different primary schools all around NZ but has lived in Auckland since she was eleven. She likes chips and ice cream (far too much and occasionally together) and writes poems, rhymes and quirky stories.

tania-hutleyTania Hutley

Tania’s favourite snack is avocado and peanut butter on toast. In a perfect world Tania would spend all her time writing, but she’s only able to afford all those expensive avocados by working for a company that makes computer games. Though she gets to play games a lot at work, she thinks making up stories is even more fun.

She’s written a book for kids called Tough Enough, another called 99 Flavours of Suck, and a few short stories too. She doesn’t hold any official world record, but her friends are convinced that she is actually the worst singer who ever lived.

www.taniahutley.com

johannaJohnanna Knox

Johanna Knox writes The Fly Papers – a mystery-adventure series about mutant carnivorous plants (illustrated by the wonderful Sabrina Malcolm).

Johanna is also the editor of Wild Things – Forest & Bird’s science and nature mag for kids. If you haven’t seen it – take a look: http://www.kcc.org.nz/magazine

kyle-posterKyle Mewburn

I’ve always loved writing. Unfortunately my handwriting has always been horrendous. No matter how hard I try it always comes out looking like a cockroach has stepped in some ink and crawled across the page. Luckily some smartypants invented the computer. There was no stopping me after that! I’ve now written more books than I count without taking my socks off. When I’m not writing I’m either in my garden singing to my vegies, in the creek swimming or off exploring the strange land I’ve discovered at the back of my wardrobe. (OK, that last bit may not be completely true…)

I’ve also got a website – www.kylemewburn.com

michelle-paintMichele Powles

Michele Powles has been a dancer and arty type all of her life. Without realising it, she discovered she was much better at writing and decided that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. She’s still working on the growing up part.

Most of her writing is for adults but sometimes a story will come up that is too awesome so she saves it for kids only. She thinks reading is cool.

www.michelepowles.com

melinda-szymanikMelinda Szymanik

Melinda can often be found glued to the television, tapping away on a computer keyboard or with her nose in a book. She has a cat and a dog, some children and a husband, and lives in Auckland. Melinda loves movies and hates driving on motorways and thinks it should be okay to wear pyjamas to work. Writing stories is her favourite thing to do and you can find some of her best stories on the shelves in bookshops and libraries, like Clever Moo, Jack the Viking and The Were-Nana (winner of the 2009 NZ Post Children’s Choice Award). Melinda is currently looking for the answer to the question ‘Who would win? Were-wolves or Gorillas?

www.melindaszymanik.blogspot.com

kathy-white-smlKathy White

If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a wildlife photographer. My favourite things are animals and words. Pictures come next. In my book called A Hairy Tale my favourite character has a haircut that makes her look like a baby gorilla called Lulu. I had no way of knowing back then that gorillas would turn out to be so significant in my writing. I’ve written 13 books and about 130 stories, articles and plays.

www.kathywhite.co.nz

So why are you still here reading, when you could be writing a story and entering the Fabo Story challenge? Go on, do it now!

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Hello From Me!

Thank you for having me as guest author this month!  I’m very glad to be here.

By way of introduction, for my first post I thought I’d share a couple of pics and also a story I wrote so you can get to know me a little.

kitties-on-desk-small

The first thing to know about me is that I’m crazy about animals. I have three cats, which doesn’t help at all when it comes to writing. Here are two of them on my desk. Where’s my keyboard? Good question!  It’s days like this I don’t manage to get much writing done.

As well as writing, I work for a company that makes computer games, which means I get to play lots of games… which doesn’t feel like real work, but hey, who’s complaining?  The main game I work on is a virtual world called SmallWorlds.  Here’s a picture of my avatar in the game firing a toilet paper gun at someone. Yes, I am working hard!

smallworlds

So to finish off my introduction, do you want a story? Here’s one I wrote that won a prize but hasn’t been published anywhere… except right here, right now! So you’re probably the only kids anywhere in the world who get to read this story.  I really hope you like it!

Chemistry in a Yellow Dress

(A short story by Tania Hutley)

Being good at sport doesn’t make me dumb. I can write an essay that makes my English teacher rave. But chemistry’s another thing. All those stupid element names!

Jamie’s top in chemistry and I think that’s why Mr Black paired me with him. “There’ll be no final exam,” Mr Black said. “Instead you can present a project on anything you want. But you have to do it in pairs.”

While everyone else was talking about their projects, Mr Black drew me aside. “This is your last chance, Max. Fail this and you fail the whole subject.”

Feeling sick, I slunk back to my seat next to Jamie. “What project are we going to do?” I asked.

He just stared at me with his arms folded. “I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “Why should I help you? I’ve already done enough this year to get Merit.”

I couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t still be mad, could he? “I said I was sorry, okay?”

“You said it, but you’re not.”

He was right. Just remembering the trick I’d played on him made me want to crack up. His expression when he went to get changed after PE and found his uniform stapled to the ceiling was so funny the whole class killed themselves laughing. “It was just a joke,” I said. “You can’t still be mad. If I fail chemistry they might make me repeat the whole year.”

“So?”

“It wasn’t personal or anything, I was just being funny. And I had to do all that detention.”

Jamie thought about it. “I’ll help you on one condition,” he finally said. “You get your sister to go to the social with me.”

My sister? She was a year ahead of us and so tough I swear she ate small children for breakfast. And she hated me. No way was she going to do me a favour.

I asked her anyway. She made me beg for a while, then laid down her conditions. “You gotta go to the social too,” she said.

“No problem.”

“Let me finish.” Her grin was pure evil. She opened her wardrobe and whipped out a yellow polka-dot dress with frills on it. “You gotta go wearing this.”

“No way!”

“And a wig.”

“You’re crazy!”

“High heels.” She rubbed her hands together. “And makeup. I think bright red lipstick would suit you.”

“NO WAY!”

She smirked. “That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”

Then it struck me. The social was the night after our project was due. I could just pretend I was going to go through with it until our project was presented, then pull out. Sneaky. I got guilt pangs thinking about it. It would be too late for Jamie to ask anyone else, but he already hated me, so he probably expected me to betray him. At least, that’s what I told myself.

I nodded slowly. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

When Jamie heard, he laughed like a maniac. “In a dress?” he kept saying, then laughing some more. “This is going to be great!”

“Why do you want to go out with my sister?” I had to ask.

He shrugged. “I don’t like the girls in our year.”

“Not even Mandy?”

“Mandy’s a friend,” he said. “But she’s not my type.”

I couldn’t believe it! You’d have to be blind, deaf and totally dumb not to like Mandy. “I didn’t know you were friends with her,” I said. “I’d have asked her to the social, but she won’t even talk to me.”

He grinned. “Mandy’s got taste. She doesn’t like bullies.”

“I’m not a bully!”

I thought he was talking rubbish. But later I started to wonder. Was I a bully? I’d never done anything really nasty; I just liked joking around. My mates thought I was hilarious. But I guess some gags might have seemed mean. I decided maybe I should give the tricks a miss for a while. I’d still clown around, but I’d try not to make anyone else the butt of the joke.

Jamie kept his end of the deal. “Our project should be about Ernest Rutherford,” he decided.

“Who?”

“He was from Nelson. Got a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.”

“Boring.”

“Boring? He was the first person to split the atom.”

“So?”

He stared at me like I was dumb. “The first to get a nuclear reaction.”

I imagined a mushroom cloud over Nelson. “That’s kinda interesting,” I admitted.

“And he was the first person to figure out how old the Earth is.”

“How old is it?”

“Find out for yourself. This is your project too. I’m not doing all the work.”

When I googled the guy, I found out heaps more stuff. “Did you know Rutherford invented smoke dectectors?” I said to Jamie.

“Great, we’ll put that in the project too,” he said. “Want to draw diagrams of his experiments?”

“Sure.”

By the time it was due, our project looked awesome. And I was proud of myself because I hadn’t played a single trick on anyone, even though I’d thought of some really funny ones. I hadn’t told anyone about my resolution, so I got no credit for resisting. But I told Jamie that I really was sorry for the joke I’d played on him, and this time I meant it. He didn’t say much in return. I was hoping he might admit I wasn’t a bully, but he just changed the subject.

When we presented our project we blew Mr Black away. He asked me a million questions, trying to catch me out, thinking Jamie had done the whole thing. No way! I answered everything right and pointed out the diagrams I’d done. His grin when we finished told me I’d passed.

So that was that, right? All I had to do was pull out of that stupid deal I’d made with my sister, and everything would be great.

Just one problem. I couldn’t do it.

Jamie was a mate now, even if he was still mad with me. I couldn’t let down a mate, could I? And he’d been looking forward to the social. If you ask me, having a crush on my sister was like fancying a poisonous snake, but he acted all goofy when she was around. So lame, but I felt sorry for him. Of all the girls at our school, he had to fall for my sister!

So on the day of the social, I pulled on that awful yellow dress. My sister had her fun painting colours on my eyes and lips, and putting a blonde wig on my head. She’d even found a pair of high heels in a thrift shop that would fit me. I told you she hated me!

Five million times I almost pulled out. But I didn’t.

Walking into the school hall wearing a dress was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Word had got out about the deal I’d made, but no-one thought I’d go through with it. The spotlight was on me as I walked in. I almost drowned in the sea of laughter. My so-called mates were on the floor laughing. Then wolf whistles started coming from all directions. I would have turned and run, except for those stupid high heels. I could hardly even walk in them.

Jamie came up to me, grinning. “Joke’s on you,” he said. “Your sister was coming with me anyway. We cooked this up together.”

Sure enough, my sister hooked her arm through his and the two of them sniggered.

I swallowed. Everyone thought of me as a trickster. Getting mad would make me look like I couldn’t handle it when the tables were turned.

“Good one.” I forced a smile onto my face. “You got me, alright.”

I left them looking surprised and hobbled over to the drinks table. I’d have one glass of punch, let everyone have their laugh, then get outta there.

I’d just drained the glass when I felt a tap on my back. It was Mandy, in a white dress, looking so pretty I thought angel wings might suddenly sprout from her back.

“Hi Max.”

“Um. Hi.”

“Nice outfit.”

“Um. Thanks.”

She tilted her head to one side. “You know, I used to think you were a loser,” she said. “But Jamie said you were okay.”

“Did he?” For some reason I’d lost the ability to string more than two words together.

She smiled. “And you look quite pretty in yellow.”

Pretty? My face caught fire.

“Wanna dance?” she asked.

Was she kidding? I glanced around to make sure it wasn’t another joke and saw my mates staring. They weren’t laughing any more; they looked like they wished they were wearing dresses too.
I managed to grin at Mandy and my brain started to reboot after its initial melt-down. “Promise you won’t step on my high heels?” I asked. Not much of a joke, but she laughed anyway.

“It’s a deal,” she said.

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Ideas are everywhere

I’m sitting here at lunch time in the library surrounded by thousands of books and wondering what they all have in common. And do you know what it is. It’s an idea!

They all had an author who started off with an idea and poked and prodded that idea until it became a story.  I suspect that some ideas took lots of pushing and shoving to get just right, while some ideas might have been a little easier to form. However,  I can almost guarantee that each and every author, when they finally sat down to write, wrote their story idea over and over until it was just the way it needed to be.  A story ripe and juicy just waiting for you to read.

That’s fine, I hear you say, but where do authors get their ideas? They get ideas anywhere and everywhere. Things people say and do, the night sky, a wintery cold night, the smell of popcorn cooking are just a few things to think about when you are wanting ideas. I know that I get ideas from silly things that happen at school. Once we had a teacher who was very embarrassed  when his wife popped in to class with his lunch after he had left it at home on the bench. I thought this was so funny I turned that idea into a play and it was published in the School Journal. I had to change things of course or I would get in to trouble but it just shows you that ideas really are everywhere.

What ideas will you have today? Just make sure you write them down in a notebook so you don’t forget and let a good story get away.

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Your turn!

Your turn to write a poem

I find lots of people think that poetry is so hard to write.

Yet a poem can be written with rhythm, strength and strong feeling by just using two words for each line, a bit like a ladder, all the way down that page

Here are some photos that might help you to have a go.

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Here’s an example:

Brown towers

cobble stones

sky paving

giraffe tall.

(c)  Lorraine Marwood

See if you can write ten lines like this- after all that is only a 20 word poem.  Have a go.  Post your poems in the comments section.  I’d love to read them.

This type of poem cuts out all the unnecessary words and allows the poem to breathe.  It also makes us use the strong words of writing like nouns and verbs.

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Gathering Ideas for writing

How does an author gather ideas?

How does a poet gather ideas?

My answer:

We look and observe, capture a tiny detail, embroider it

look at it from a different angle, then surprise the reader and ourselves.

I use exercise books like this to keep all my ideas together:

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I always write the date in, I jot down a thought, a sight, a little treasure of a word, or a sudden idea.

(or even the complete poem)

If I don’t write it down straight away it goes away never to return.

Here is a suggestion for you to begin your own ‘ideas’ book.

Try keeping an ideas book each day for a week.

  1. Just write down a conversation that was funny or unusual you were a part of or overheard.

Here’s an example:

While on a walk recently  I overheard these comments:

‘I bet a thousand dollars…’

 

‘It’ll make you dizzy.’

 

‘But then you would never…

These fragments could become part of a story, or a poem or lead to more ideas.

2.  Just write down a few words about what was happening in your world, even the weather.

3.  Even a quick sketch of your pet and a few words about what they like to do best.  Sketching and writing is a great idea.

For my latest collection of poetry ‘Guinea Pig town and other poems about animals’ Walker books, I was able to observe animals and then write from this.  Taking a photograph to look back later was great also.

Here are two photos of two animals.  Both were in London and both are the subjects of poems in my book.

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If you are able to look in a copy of ‘Guinea Pig town and other Animal poems’ then look up:

‘A big bathroom’

‘Flamingos’

Then you can see the finished poems.

What do you like to write about?  I’d love to hear from you.

Lorraine M

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The All Important How Question and What question

I am often asked, ‘How did I become a writer?’ Just last week I was asked this question as I went into a remote school to teach poetry.

I looked at the boy who asked me and asked him in turn, ‘how old are you?’  Luckily he replied with the age I was looking for.  He said , ’eight’.

‘Well that’s the age I can remember thinking that’s what I really really want to be when I grow up, to be an author,’ I replied.

But I didn’t add that though I’d never meet an author, or knew anything about the journey to becoming an author; I still knew in my heart that was what I had to be.   I also loved reading.  Reading all sorts of books is a great start to becoming an author.

I didn’t know that at the time, but already I was embarking on my writer’s journey.

So that leads to another question, ‘what books did you like to read as a child?’

Well I’m not sure if you have ever heard of this very old book called ‘The Princess and Curdie’ by a famous author called George Macdonald.  He wrote this book many years ago, in fact it was very old when I was a child!!!

I loved it.  The thrill of a fabulous, loving and altogether magical grandmother, a princess alone and under threat by  dreadful goblins and a poor ordinary miner’s son called Curdie.  Wow!  I was hooked and today that book still has pride of place on my bookshelves.

So here’s a question for you?  What book has stirred your imagination, has transported you to another world, one that you’d keep through all your growing years and into adulthood?  I’d love to hear.

Next time I’ll show you a little bit of how I work ; my secret writing books and even share a way for you to start your own writing book.

Lorraine Marwood

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Walking the dog

Hi,

I had a visit yesterday afternoon from Indigo, a lovely year 9 student who’s doing a project on writers – and at the same time, she’s writing a novel herself. She asked me lots of interesting questions about how I wrote and where I got my ideas from and what advice I had for writers. It was good timing, because I planned to write on just those things on the Christchurchkids blog today.

I could be really silly, and answer “How do you write?” by saying that I sit at my desk and  tap away at the keyboard with my fingers.

Well, actually, that IS what I do, but other stuff comes first. One thing I do before I start writing most days, and definitely before I start a new project, is lots of walking. A walk around the park with my dog Gus is good because I find thinking and walking go really well together.
I don’t make lots of notes; I tend to work things out in my head. I play out scenes as if my mind was a movie screen. I try out ideas and (because I like an insanely complicated plot) I try to make twists and turns and figure out “what if?” as if I’m playing a game or doing a jigsaw. Gus is a great help because he needs to walk every day and he comes and reminds GUSme if I don’t take him.

Could you resist those doggy eyes?

Where do I get my ideas from? The answer is everywhere. I am like a magpie, collecting bits and pieces. News items, conversations that I overhear, people I see in the street, pictures, paintings, photos and places all go to making a story. In Verity Sparks Lost and Found, there is a strand of the plot about spirit photography. That got there because a friend was throwing out old books and there was one on the supernatural she thought I’d like. In the early days of photography, people were easily fooled by double exposures and other tricks, and there were some great pictures with “ghosts ” in them. So I used them in my book.

My main piece of advice for writers is simple. Finish that story! Don’t leave it half-finished or just started. When you’ve got it finished, then you’ll have something to work with. You can edit, rearrange, change, cut, add and polish to make your story much, much better. But only if you finish it first.

All the best,

Susan

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